May 14 2008
As the campaign for Merit Selection progresses, we hear some inaccurate arguments repeated by those who oppose Merit Selection. In an effort to set the record straight, we’ll reveal the truth and clear up these myths.
Myth #5: All Merit Selection Systems Are the Same
Someone once said there as many different judicial selection systems as there are snowflakes. While that’s a bit of an exaggeration, it’s true that judicial selection systems differ greatly depending on where you are. This is also true of Merit Selection systems.
The proposal to implement Merit Selection for Pennsylvania’s appellate courts incorporates the best parts of other states’ systems, and corrects aspects of those systems that are less successful. We outline below how the proposal for Pennsylvania’s appellate courts differs from the systems used by other states. (Visit the American Judicature Society to learn more about other Merit Selection systems.)
The Nominating Commission is Appointed by Elected Officials and Non-elected Entities
Like other states’ nominating commissions, elected officials like the Governor and legislative leaders have a role in appointing members of the nominating commission. However, under the unique Pennsylvania proposal, non-elected entities, including civic organizations, law school deans, unions, business organizations, nonlawyer professional associations and public safety organizations a
lso appoint members to
the nominating commission.
The Governor Cannot Request Additional Lists or Additional Names of Recommended Candidates from the Nominating Commission
Under the proposed plan, the Governor is bound to nominate from the nominating commission’s list of recommended candidates. The Governor may not reject the list or request that other names be added to it. This is different from the Merit Selection systems in place in several states, including Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Tennessee.
The Process Involves a Role for the Governor, the Senate and the Public
Under the Pennsylvania proposal, an appellate judge can only be seated after being nominated by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. The judge will serve a short initial term of four years, after which he or she must stand before the public in a retention election. If retained, the judge may serve a ten year term, after which he or she will again be eligible to stand for retention.
Several states don’t require legislative confirmation — including Tennessee, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Kansas. And in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, judges do not stand for retention.
Merit Selection systems are as varied and unique as the states that adopt them. We think the one being considered for Pennsylvania’s appellate courts offers a better way to select appellate judges.
Keep visiting JudgesOnMerit.org to learn the truth about Merit Selection.
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